March 28, 2004

Washington, DC

Present: J. Ahearne, A. Bienenstock, S. Block, P. Bond, B. Clark, Morrel Cohen, P. Eisenberger, M. Einhorn, S. Fetter, F. von Hippel, S. Koonin, B. Levi, E. Moniz, B. Richter, W. Shotts, J. Wiseman, J. Zinck, J. Primack (by phone)

Absent: J. Bahcall, D. Cox, Y. Gupta, R. Hagengruber, H. Quinn

APS Staff: Franz, Lubell, Pierson, Slakey, Victoria

Guest: Amy Flatten, APS Director of International Affairs


  • October 23, 2004
  • January 9, 2005

Bienenstock called the meeting to order at 8:30 AM. Minutes from the past meeting were approved.

Review of APS Bylaws and APS Statements: Franz requested that a subcommittee be formed to revise APS statements and decide which ones to archive or update, if necessary.

POPA Action:

  • Ahearne, Bienenstock and von Hippel will work on this issue. They will have the selection made by 2005 and send it to the APS Council for approval.

Franz explained that procedures slightly change over time, and modification of the bylaws becomes necessary. She proposed the following revision of the POPA procedures described in the APS Bylaws:

There shall be a Steering Committee consisting of the Chairperson, the Chairperson-Elect, the Vice-Chairperson, the Vice-President, the Chair of the Physics Policy Committee, and at least two additional members of the Panel selected from among and by the members of the POPAanel. The Panel on Public Affairs POPA shall be responsible for making recommendations to the President, the Executive Board and the Council on public affairs activities of the Society designated by the Executive Board or Council. The Steering CommitteePOPA may investigate initiate new public affairs activities for the Society and may recommend new programs to the Council. POPA and its Steering Committeeshall keep minutes and distribute them to the members of the Panel and to the Council.

POPA Action: 

  • the motion to approve proposed revision passed unanimously.

Science and the Social Contract: Eisenberger believes there is the need for a new “social contract” that demonstrates concern for the social consequences of scientific research. Because of the increasing role of science in today’s society and the numerous changes that it has generated, Eisenberger proposed an examination of several topics: the interaction between physics and society, advocacy guidelines for projects that impact society, codes of scientific behavior, and communication between science and society. He proposed, among other ideas, to develop a position paper to stimulate the discussion; to hold sessions on this issue at APS meetings; to look for input from non-scientists; and to publish op-eds on this issue (detailed proposal was mailed to members).
Von Hippel agreed on the importance of this issue, but proposed that POPA discuss the subject again in a future meeting before any decision is made.
Zinck suggested expanding the dialogue to include non-scientists.
Block is also concerned with public policy conflicts, but would like more concrete ideas.
Levi disagreed with the idea of position paper but supported dialogue.
Richter suggested that activities in this area be organized by the Forum, not by POPA.
Eisenberger replied that the role of POPA would be to guide discussion, not to impose ideas.
Moniz did not see the need for a revision of the ethics statement, nor does he see the need for a APS position paper, although he supports the idea of a couple of sessions held by the Forum.
Franz noted that there is an AAPT -APS task force looking into graduate education and other issues. If POPA decided to survey young people on this issue, it is possible to use email and the website to do quick surveys.
Bienenstock suggested two options: create a task force that would organize ideas; or work with the Forum to organize the discussion.
Eisenberger responded that there is a POPA Subcommittee already in place so Bienenstock suggested that the Subcommittee and the POPA steering committee prepare the issue for discussion at the next POPA meeting. Other comments were then made: include a broader community on the discussions, concentrate on specifics, link to forums and sessions at APS meetings. Eisenberger requested that any additional feedback from POPA members should be sent to him by email.
Ahearne moved to send the issue back to the subcommittee for further revision, taking into account the comments.

POPA Action:

  • Motion to send the issue back to the subcommittee for further revision was approved unanimously.

Ethics: Treatment of Subordinates Statement: Moniz brought a draft of the statement on treatment of subordinates for discussion. He said that the draft tried to capture issues reflected in the ethics task force survey. Frances Houle, chair of the Ethics Task Force, agreed with the draft, although she said that the timely graduation and career guidance issues are not addressed. The draft reflected changes in wording, proposed by Peter Bond.
Richter suggested that, rather than discussing changes in wording, the committee discuss the contents first.
The following comments were offered: remove the words “domain knowledge,” remove the paragraph on “increasing internationalization of the physics community...;” remove the paragraph about timely graduation; remove the second part of the second paragraph since the issue of co-authorship is too broad to be addressed specifically; the statement should make reference to the previously-approved statement on co-authorship, and a paragraph should be added at the beginning on timely graduation.
Franz proposed that the subcommittee come back after lunch with a revised version that includes comments.
After lunch, Moniz presented the revised draft for approval.
Richter proposed to delete the paragraph referring to “cultural differences.”

POPA Action:

  • The motion to approve a revised version of the Treatment of Subordinates statement passed unanimously.

Franz explained that the statement will now go to the Executive Board and Council for approval. If approved, it will be posted on the web.

The committee discussed the dates for the next two meeting. An email will be sent to survey members on possible dates.

Washington Update - NASA Statement: Lubell: Presidential budget is essentially flat. The budget has been strongly attacked by Democrats because of the $521 billion projected deficit, not including supplements for Iraq or Afghanistan. The presidential request asks for 0.5% increase on discretionary spending in areas other than defense and Homeland Security. However, there is general agreement in Congress to cut the budget further.
The presidential budget does request a considerable increase in the NASA budget because of the Moon-Mars Mission. The issue had been dropped in the State of the Union Address probably because Congress did not react favorably, even the Republican side of the aisle. But the budget had already been printed, so the request stayed in.
Budget Committee staff handling Function 250 suggested diverting some of NASA allocations to other science programs. They asked for justification from the scientific community for why the NASA appropriation for the Mars-Moon Mission should not be pursued vigorously. Perhaps APS could produce a short report, specifying the risks to science programs and the technological challenges involved. Lubell said that if the scientific community doesn’t speak up, the money taken from NASA will not go to science but more likely will go to VA-HUD, because shortfalls in the presidential request.
Richter said that the Academy has been asked to review the Hubble mission, not only the technical and safety issues, but also what science might be lost if it is canceled.
Lubell suggested that POPA develop a report articulating the reasons why it might be premature to put money into the Moon-Mars Mission. Franz voiced concern with APS suggesting which science should be funded and which not.
Richter said that there is a long procedure to get a statement out, and POPA should not get into this subject without the input of the scientific community.
Bienenstock said that a report/statement should focus on the science lost by the changes in programming.
Primack suggested that the report recommend that NASA be guided by NAS Decadal studies, and that the committee he was asked to organize be composed by California-based experts, to facilitate meeting in person. POPA supported these suggestions.

POPA Action:

  • Bienenstock, Franz, and Primack will formulate a procedure for preparing a statement on science research that might be sacrificed by moving funds into the Moon-Mars Program. Primack will form an ad hoc committee to develop the issue more fully. POPA will hold the discussions by email so that a draft is ready for the APS Executive Board meeting in June.

Visas: Flatten reported on a hearing held by the House Science Committee last February on the GAO report that examined visa delays. Members of the committee did not confront witnesses with alleged deficiencies in the visa process and they acknowledged the need for strong national security measures. AAAS organized a meeting in January with scientific and higher education organizations to discuss some of the problems generated by 9/11 security measures.
A group proposed drafting a document suggesting how the system can be improved. OSTP agrees with the importance of foreign scientists doing research in the US. Therefore, such a document would help the science advisor to the president in pushing for some changes in the visa system.

Hydrogen: Levi reported that the paper on hydrogen intended for APS members needs further work. She requested further clarification on the standards for POPA occasional papers. Franz clarified that formal reports are approved by Council while POPA reports and occasional papers are approved by POPA and posted on the web.

Update on Report to Congress: Slakey summarized the activities generated by the Hydrogen Initiative report to Congress. It was released on March 1st; and that same morning National Public Radio had a long piece favorably describing the report. On March 3rd, Eisenberger testified before the House Science Committee. He testified along with DOE Assistant Secretary Garman who, under questioning by Rep. Boehlert, agreed that more basic research is needed for the Hydrogen Initiative to succeed, that funding large scale demonstration projects would be premature at this time, and that the renewable budget should not be cut to accommodate the Hydrogen Initiative. On March 8th, AOL’s lead story was a review of the APS report and Eisenberger’s testimony. (AOL s daily news reaches 35 million people). On March 9, Rep Dingell circulated a letter recommending a $10 M increase in support of basic research centers in the Hydrogen Initiative. As a result of all these activities, the five main recommendations in the APS report were acted on by Congress.

Pit Facility Report: Slakey reported that the draft was revised. The TA55 reference was removed from the summary section and the production section was significantly rewritten. The report also identifies now the potential problems with the TA55. The concern conveyed in the report about the Administration’s intending to maintain the large arsenal was removed completely.
The committee then discussed the report’s contents and wording.
Moniz commented that he would have liked the criticism of the TA55 option to be stronger.
Von Hippel noted that people who have access to classified information read the report and they had no objections regarding its content.
Eisenberger proposed that since Shotts, Hagengruber and Moniz are experts on the issue, they should make the final decision whether to continue or not with the report.

POPA Action:

  • A motion to make minor corrections to the Pit Facility report passed unanimously. Within two weeks, the new version will be circulated by email to the entire POPA membership for a vote.

Science and the Bush Administration - UCS Report: The committee asked Lubell to comment on the UCS report. The CQ Weekly magazine, Lubell said, quoted Rep. Boehlert, a strong advocate of science, saying that the report makes some strong points but it is also too negative. The report, Lubell said, has been read as a political document rather than as a sound analysis of the Administration’s handling of science. For instance, it mixes valid criticism of misuse of scientific information but denounces scientific misrepresentation in areas such as birth control.
Several members disagreed with this assertion.
Bienenstock interprets the report as saying that science has been ignored in the scientific discussion because CDC is no longer allowed to investigate whether certain birth control techniques are effective.
Eisenberger said that it is essential to establish ways to communicate science accurately.
Block said that the scientific community has never felt so disenfranchised as with this administration and that it has the right to demand a place in the discussion.
Richter said that the biomedical and environmental sciences were mistreated by the Administration, but not necessarily the physical sciences. POPA members agreed that APS should not publicly respond to this report at this time.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:40 PM.